Businesses are always contemplating ideas for innovative software, websites, and applications, but may hit a wall when bringing their vision to fruition if they lack the proper staff to do the work onsite. To implement an idea they take to the Internet to do research for third-party development companies. With the plethora of software development agencies on the Internet, finding a true and seamless back-end software technology partner can be overwhelming. To refine your search it is important to review key elements before committing to a partnership with an organization to complete your software development objectives.
While budgetary concerns are always an important factor, choosing a development company based solely on whether they are the cheapest can result in a bad experience for both parties. To avoid a negative outcome, it is recommended that companies look at multiple factors when choosing the best software development partner for their project.
Time in business is only one factor in determining the experience and expertise of a company. A business can be around for many years but hire only inexperienced developers to keep costs down. The nitty-gritty of experience is identifying whether the development company has the in depth knowledge in the technologies, standards, and regulations surrounding a particular industry. Each industry is unique, so hiring a software development company that is segmented by industry that uses project managers who have time and experience with developing software for that industry is crucial to ensuring that proper technique is followed to ensure the project meets all regulatory standards set by the industry. This should be apparent early on in the relationship and sales process, as a company segmented internally by industry will also segment the sales staff by industry to reassure customers that the software company has a solid understanding of the client's needs for their project. Companies can also benefit from this internal industry segmentation because the collective industry knowledge of the staff is able to cross the industry boundaries to create custom solutions that meet multiple needs.
Although it is impossible for a single developer to have in depth knowledge of every possible coding language, hiring a software development company that offers a wide range of technologies ensures that there will be a developer who is capable of handling the demands of the programming language of the client's choice. Ensuring that the developers who will be assigned to your project have primary knowledge of the coding language you wish to use on your project is imperative to the success of your project. Companies that hide behind a smoke-screen and refuse to allow you to speak directly with the team assigned to your project may be an indication that the individuals tasked with completing your project do not have much experience in the correct techniques needed for your project.
One of the biggest concerns that a company faces with selecting a software development vendor is who will oversee the project. In some cases, very low cost providers do not provide a project manager, which puts the onus of overseeing the project on the client. This can be very stressful, as these providers typically operate in an offshore environment and most likely speak a different language than the client. Companies who offer project management as part of the agreement address the concerns with communication and project oversight by ensuring that there will always be a point of contact for their project who understands their company's needs.
The development company should not simply hit the ground running, programming code without a clear understanding of the scope of the solution. It is the task of the project manager to create a project plan to show how the moving parts will fit together. This project plan is a way to ensure the client and the development team fully understand what is expected and how to proceed. The project plan will include the way the team will go about development based on when the final deliverable is needed, which can include various techniques such as Waterfall, Agile-Scrum, Prince2, Critical Chain, and others to ensure the project is handled correctly.
A second major concern for companies looking to hire a 3rd party for software development is communication, especially when dealing with companies based in other countries. This concern breaks down into two parts. The first possible problem to arise are the language and culture barriers that prevent effective communication between the development team and the client. This leads to miscommunications on project requirements, deliverables, and can ruin the client relationship as both sides become frustrated by the inability to understand one another easily. The second part of this concern is the time difference. When hiring a company where the majority of development occurs overseas, the differences in time zone can be as much as 12 hours between the client and the developers. As a result, clients may feel as though they must be awake at all hours to be able to catch their development team if a problem occurs. Additionally, email communications are delayed and important updates may take much longer to produce because of the delay. Businesses should instead look at companies that offer a point of contact who can communicate fluently in the client's language and who works the same hours as the client to avoid delays and miscommunications. An additional aspect to consider is when the team works. Teams who work in the client's time rather than their own time zone can help reduce the delay in communication and delays in development by allowing for real-time communication when it is most convenient for the client.
Scalability and Flexibility
When considering a new project, many companies are concerned with price, communication, and expertise but one area that is often overlooked is whether a company is capable of increasing or decreasing the size of a team based on the needs of the project. This concern is typically one that comes up after development has started. With a locked-in contract, the size of the team remains the same through the lifetime of a project, regardless of whether each developer is needed or if additional developers are required. This limits flexibility in the project and can lead to costly problems down the road if the company chosen for software development is unwilling or unable to scale a project based on client needs.
However, a work-for-hire firm without locked-in contracts can maintain a high level of flexibility when it comes to scaling or changing a team to meet the client's needs. The ideal development partner will be able dedicate a team of developers that can fluctuate in size or change out one expert for another based on the project requirements and the client's needs. A flexible software development partner will work with your company to ensure that the appropriate technological needs are met while continuously seeking ways to help you reduce your overall cost of production.
How Many Projects are the Developers Tasked With?
Another issue that many companies face, especially when going with the lowest cost option, is that developers are often tasked with many different projects and are able to dedicate only a specific amount of time to each project. Although this may seem to be an efficient model, it often leads to delays and mistakes across the board because the developers are over-taxed by working on different projects. It is normal that project managers will oversee many projects, as they are typically far more experienced at juggling multiple tasks than the developers assigned to projects. When developers are assigned with a single project to focus on, the work is more fluid and the developer is better able to focus on the project at hand rather than worrying about a problem that had occurred in a different project they had worked on for an hour or two prior to working on your project. Part-time development might be ideal for very small projects that only require a few hours of work, but for larger projects it is better if the developer is tasked to one project at a time. This reduces errors and speeds development time considerably because the developer does not need to switch between projects.
Who Owns the Proprietary Data?
One very important aspect to watch for when selecting a software development partner is who owns the intellectual property and source code once the project is complete. Some companies may charge licensing fees or usage fees for the software developed by their teams for the client because they retain full rights to any product they create. This can be a surprise to many clients as they expect that fully customized software should not have additional fees or charges. Indeed, companies should be wary of extra charges that are associated with the release or use of proprietary data that extends beyond the completion of the project. With custom projects, the source code and intellectual property should always belong to the client, as the project is designed and created based on the ideas of the individual who hired the software development company.
The Fixed Price Trap
Decision makers face tough choices in being able to provide maximum business value within a limited budget. Choosing the right software solutions partner is a critical decision as this represents a potentially large cost to a company. Organizations need their technical solutions provider to be reasonable, cost-effective, and proactive in addressing potential issues. Many are quick to push for a fixed rate contract because they feel that it gives them a flat cost to expect for the project. However, the fixed rate model fails to address the issues that arise when the project requirements change, which often happens during the process of software development.
To put it into perspective, imagine you have a set, fixed price to build a three bedroom, one bathroom house. Halfway through the project, you discover that your mother will move in with you so you will need an additional bedroom and bathroom. Now, the contractor is still obliged to add those additional rooms without increasing the cost due to the limitations of the fixed price contract. However, the contractor is not obligated to make sure the additions are of the same quality as the rest of the house because even though the new work will add time and resources to the project, there is no benefit to the contractor in terms of an equivalent increase in pay. The work is essentially done for free and the quality will reflect that.
The Problem with Quotes
To avoid the fixed price trap, many companies opt to get a number of quotes from various providers then choose the lowest cost option. The problem with this is that without knowing the full scope and specifications for the project, development companies find themselves either severely underquoting to win business or over-quoting in an attempt to cover every possible factor. Again, this is often done without the software company knowing the full details of the project. For companies that specialize in customization, quoting for a software project is similar to getting a quote for a custom car. Software development, much like building a custom vehicle, can be a very time consuming process with many customizable parts. If you ask someone to build a customized car from scratch, but you don't know what exact engine, brakes, exhaust, rims, electronics, upholstery, transmission, or any other specifications, how can you expect an exact cost? The same logic follows with a custom software development project. Without a project plan and high level design documents it is nearly impossible to accurately give a total cost quote. That is why most companies use deceptive practices by throwing out low ball quotes to entice your business, then to your dismay, quickly increase that number as the full scope of the project is revealed.
Choosing the right software provider, whether at the project level or as a long-term partner, can be overwhelming given the number of options available on the market today. However, you can ease this process considerably by knowing what to look for in a quality software development firm and fully understanding the pitfalls that can sour the relationship beyond repair. Keeping these points in mind as you shop around for the perfect software provider that will meet your development need and keep your budgetary needs in mind while developing high-quality software for your business will help you develop a healthy business relationship with your provider.
Chetu, Inc. does not affect the opinion of this article. Any mention of specific names for software, companies or individuals does not constitute an endorsement from either party unless otherwise specified. All case studies and blogs are written with the full cooperation, knowledge and participation of the individuals mentioned. This blog should not be construed as legal advice.
Chetu was incorporated in 2000 and is headquartered in Florida. We deliver World-Class Software Development Solutions serving entrepreneurs to Fortune 500 clients. Our services include process and systems design, package implementation, custom development, business intelligence and reporting, systems integration, as well as testing, maintenance and support. Chetu's expertise spans across the entire IT spectrum.
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